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World Class Academy MTB is Off and Running

Nov 3, 2021
by riley gardner  

FALL 2021
Words: Riley Gardner. Photos: Riley Gardner, Jonah Pitchel, Logan Smith

PRESS RELEASE: World Cup Academy

When the readers of Pinkbike last heard from World Class Academy in 2020, the pilot program had been cut short due to Covid lockdowns. Then, continued difficulties caused by the pandemic pushed WCA to focus on the school's established programs during the challenging school year of 2020-2021. It was simply not an easy time to launch a new school. World Class Academy is now ecstatic to announce that The MTB Academy is alive and thriving.

With a roster of staff and students from all over the Americas, the starting class is a small, but passionate group of mountain bikers. Six students were enrolled for the first quarter along with four faculty members in the field, making for an outstanding ratio of staff to students. The students range in geographic backgrounds, as four of the students are from the US, one comes from Canada, and another comes from Peru.

The Fall 2021 MTB team!

bigquotesWe are excited to have this new program off the ground. There are so many high school students who mountain bike, there is no doubt that our newest program is going to take off. Our first quarter was a huge success.WCA Executive Director Aaron Capo Rettig

On September 1st, 2021, the school year started in Bellingham, Washington. Students and faculty arrived from their respective homes, ready to embrace a new educational environment. The Pacific Northwest proved to be an ideal place to start the school year. Bellingham offers such a variety of high-quality riding that every type of rider is able to thrive, be challenged, and grow. Every member of the team— staff and students— comes from a different background in cycling, and everyone is working towards becoming a more well-rounded rider. Some students had never ridden so many machine-built flow trails before. Some had never put tires to a loamy, mossy, rooty, PNW steep section. Others were blown away by the quality and quantity of dirt jump spots. Bellingham truly has it all! The school was able to ride right from the door of their rented house to the famous Galbraith Mountain trail system, making for easy access to the mainstay of Bellingham riding. With so many options in the area, many other trail networks were also explored, especially the local dirt jump spots. The team embraced as many different types of riding as they could— enduro riding, dirt jumping, shuttle assisted downhill, cross-country— the goal was to push everyone as well-rounded riders and progress all MTB skills.

Despite all this talk about biking, at World Class Academy, our philosophy is academics first. Our primary goals are to prepare students to excel in the classroom and to provide a rigorous college preparatory curriculum. Along with our travel schedule, students attend class five full days each week and earn high school credit in five core subjects: math, science, social studies, language arts, and foreign language. Our faculty is comprised of professional teachers who have a passion for working with young people in a global and constantly changing learning environment. This past quarter, the school had a 3:2 student-to-teacher ratio, which allowed students to receive an individualized educational experience few schools can offer. Our college preparatory curriculum fulfills rigorous academic standards and has proven to prepare students to compete successfully for college admission into top institutions.

Left: Media productions class had the most students in one class: 6. Right: Environmental Science class tests the soil of Lake Whatcom during a lab.

Learning at WCA happens around the clock. The experiences outside the classroom are as integral to our educational program as our curriculum. Character development is a cornerstone of the school’s mission, helping students become responsible, culturally aware, and compassionate individuals with the ability to find success wherever life may take them. Many of the experiences at WCA contribute to this end. Traveling to a variety of destinations allows students to experience other cultures and witness lives very different from their own. Service-learning projects each semester help students see the importance of contributing to the communities where they live and travel. Living, learning, and traveling with a small group of students and faculty foster the development of good communication skills and cooperation while being responsible for the tasks of daily life abroad teaches self-reliance and teamwork. After their time at WCA, students return home with new levels of confidence and independence, as well as an ability to see beyond themselves with unique insight into the world around them. The mission of World Class Academy is to help our students excel in the areas of academics, athletics, and character, with equal emphasis. The blending of these three in the education of the whole individual is what makes the WCA experience exceptional.

Student Max Jackson carries speed through a berm

While World Class Academy is not a "racing school," goal-setting still carries a huge emphasis at WCA. For athletic goals, students use training logs to note and track their progress. The head coach facilitates athletic plans and workouts that help the students accomplish their goals. This past quarter, the goals of the students ranged from specific jump tricks, to getting in better shape for uphill climbs, to training for future races, to the wise goal of not injuring themselves. For World Class Academy, setting goals goes beyond just learning tricks, or winning a race. It is about helping a student accomplish something they put their minds to while growing their self-confidence in the process. While World Class Academy has produced many top athletes in the other three academies, this is a side effect of practicing the sport every day with advanced coaching and high-quality destinations, not the goal of the program.

In just one quarter, the progression of the students' skills was truly incredible. Here, 12th grader Sam Beatty checks off two of his biggest goals for the quarter at once: hitting the famous Blue Steel jump line and doing a Toboggan— a trick he set as a goal to learn this quarter.

After three and half weeks in Bellingham, the school hit the road and then based in Hood River for the remainder of the quarter. The team took advantage of the bounty of trails at Post Canyon, Sandy Ridge, Syncline, Nestor Peak, Thrillium, and even sessioned a private airbag. More PNW loam was ridden, and more student goals were checked off.

The quarter ended with a buzz on October 10th, with students and staff wondering how it was possible that time had moved so fast. The students then all traveled home for fall break which allows the students and staff to recharge, cure some homesickness, and get ready for another quarter of riding and schoolwork.

Left: Aidan Weld styling on his DJ. Right: The team in a big train at the Civic Dirt Jumps.
Cornering for dough with Sam Beatty and a nac-nac from Program Director Riley Gardner

12th grader Jonah Pitchel grinds uphill to get the goods. More Environmental Science fun with Finn Smith, Lucio Vellutino, and Max Jackson.

On October 24th, the team reunited in Moab, Utah for the second quarter of the school year. The team will tour throughout the US Southwest, riding as much as they can, while completing the first semester of school. The team has already grown and is now up to seven students.

When the semester ends on December 11th, the team will scatter like seeds in the wind for a lengthy winter break. Then in late January, the team will commence the second semester of the school year in Portugal. Portugal will be a great first international location for the program and introduce the students to the wonders of international bike travel. Then the school will move to Italy for the final quarter of the year and graduation!

Lucio Vellutino whips out of a shark fin on Blue Steel

Teacher Gianna Osselo enjoys golden hour

For the 2022-2023 school year the school is planning on traveling to British Columbia, Spain, New Zealand, and Italy. The school is excited to keep exploring the globe to find the best places to ride while completing high school.

Student Aidan Weld whips a step up

If you are looking to rethink education, it might be time to explore what World Class Academy can offer in our unique experiential education model

World Class Academy MTB is still accepting applications for the 2021-2022 school year. It is never too late to apply for this school year, or too early for next year! Check out the website for more information. Or feel free to email if you have questions. Also, check out the school's Instagram to see what is happening out in the field!

Onward and upward!


  • 15 0
 This is insane. Wish I had this opportunity
  • 15 3
 If only your folks had $40,000 a year to put towards your education.
  • 14 17
 @commental: and not a single one of the “teachers” has any teaching degree. No teaching experience AT ALL listed in the bios. Smells a bit Trump university to me
  • 8 0
 @BigAge: I know a few people who were instructors at World Class Kayaking Academy. While they didn’t have teaching credentials, they had advanced degrees and had taught at universities as graduate students. Not saying that applies here (this was 20+ years ago and World Class has changed leadership since then) but the teachers were legit back then.
  • 8 5
 @BigAge:Lol Trump U? Sit down bro. And wtf kind of teaching degree do you want them to have anyways, math? English lit? They're riding bikes. There is hardly a single MTB instructor that is actually a certified school teacher.

Met these guys in Bham, they have super good vibes and interact really and genuinely well with the students. They have a big emphasis on trail stewardship also. The kind of stuff those kids are learning, regardless of what degree the teachers have, is going to take them far in life.
  • 9 3
 @Rafe1234: If you're touting a curriculum that is "proven to prepare students to compete successfully for college admission into top institutions," then you better have the trained individuals to implement it. In my twenty years of teaching, I've seen many untrained teachers. The results have definitely not prepared students for successful admission to top institutions.
Interesting idea, though. I hope they're able to follow through on their claims.
  • 2 0
 Thanks Hogfly
  • 5 2
 @rrolly: I can't speak for every high school of course, but in general what they are learning in WCA is way better than your normal high school. They aren't replacing a two year college, the kids are pretty young.

The most important thing in appication to to a higher learning insitution in someone who understands the process and that can give you guidance and be present. Not rocket science, people without teaching experience do it all the time for their children and themselves.
  • 4 0
 @Rafe1234: If you've got untrained professional educators delivering curriculum in a way that is far better than a "normal high school," then your normal high school is not doing well. The standard for professional educators, at least in Canadian provinces, is to be informed and implement best practices based on research. Some people without teacher training or experience CAN do it, but based on what I've seen not many are able to do it all the time.
Again, I wish the school well. I just think they need to be a little more cautious in making statements about academic success without qualified teaching staff.
  • 3 0
 @rrolly: That's right normal highschool's aren't doing well, and have not been for a long time. My nephew is applying for scholarships and admission to CWU and has gotten zero assitance from his school or any of the "qualified" staff, his family members are doing everything. Public school teachers can't do it all the time either.

And again, implementing best practices based on research isn't super complicated. This is what most successful people do regardless of their degrees or certifications.

Also, you all are making a lot of assumptions, how do you know they don't have qualified instructors?
  • 1 0
 @Rafe1234: I read their bios: post-sec bachelor degrees. And I have zero problem with this. My undergrad work made me quite knowledgeable in the areas I studied (debatable, lol), but my professional educators certification and subsequent professional development as an educator has elevated what I do.

Yes, many successful people implement best practices, some of which is based on their research. This process isn't complicated, but most people don't do it.
  • 10 0
 My 15 year old is in the program this year. It is worth every penny. I’m a college instructor and from what I’ve seen the education is top notch. The instructor to student ratio is insane. My son will be so much better prepared for post secondary attending this program than he ever would have been in the public system.

On top of that he’s riding his bike every day with a bunch of like minded kids and instructors. Progressing his skill on the bike is just a by product of this program. I can’t say enough good things about this adventure he is on.
  • 2 0
 Interesting, I was looking at this and thinking that as a Canadian it wouldn't be an option. What is the application process like?
  • 4 0
 The application process was straightforward. There are also scholarships available which adds a bit of time to the process. My son will end up with a diploma from WCA, which is an accredited school. He is also transferring some of the courses back to BC and will be getting his BC high school diploma as well. He’s taking AP courses and will be writing those standardized exams in the spring. @powderhoundbrr:
  • 4 1
 is it just a coincidence that you and the other person here saying their kid is in the program BOTH had their accounts made on june 19, 2016...
  • 1 0
 @triggerdog: It would seem so, hard to believe that would be the case but good detective work. I am a real person with no idea who gbeatty is...

And I wasn't saying my kid was in the program just I was interested as a Canadian to know how to look into enrollment.

That would be a real long con to wait 5 years until there was an article on the program only to say I was interested and have a bunch of other Pinkbikers see my comment.

But yes that does seem to be a strange coincidence for sure!
  • 4 0
 @triggerdog: I didn't remember my wife had a pinkbike account until today. I guess we opened them on the same day. I'm Graham and cgsunshines is my wife. As you can tell we're pretty excited to have our kid involved in this program. It has exceeded our expectations.
  • 3 0
 @powderhoundbrr: My kids have both graduated. If I wanted either of them to have a great life experience and be engaged in their education, I would look into this. If, however, I wanted either of my kids to pursue education at a top post secondary institution, there is no way I would roll the dice on this.
  • 4 0
 @triggerdog: no coincidence. We’re both real people. Married. Our son is in the academy. Mystery solved
  • 3 0
 @rrolly: the academy has been operating for more than 20 years. Although the mountain bike program is new, the institution is not. It is an accredited institution and prioritizes academics to provide a world class education.

We did do our homework and felt more confident in the quality of the education our son would receive from WCA than our local public school. Our son is maintaining his 4.0 GPA that he entered the program with, and is challenged daily with the work. In addition, I think traveling the world in high school will positively differentiate him on applications for post secondary (or employment).

We are providing our support to help build awareness of the program. I want other people to know about this opportunity because I know I would have been extraordinarily disappointed if we learned about it too late. I don’t want others to miss out, if it suits them, as well as it suits us.
  • 1 0
 @Cgsunshines: I love that your son is doing well. He will likely benefit significantly to this different secondary school experience. Again, I have no issue with the school whatsoever, other than the one claim. And to that I would ask them to provide statistics on their students admission to top post secondary institutions. If they've been running for more than twenty years, they should have this.

On behalf of teachers, thank you for being involved in your child's education. That is massive. He is fortunate.
  • 2 0
 @rrolly: Hi! if you look at this page here - you can see an extensive list of where we have had alumni from our school attend.
  • 1 0
 @rileygardner: Thanks for posting. Over the twenty years, what percentage have attended the top institutions of that list? I think that would do more to back the school's claim, especially given that most attend for only one year.

IMO one of the biggest selling features of your program could be the one year MTB school. It could be a fantastic part of their high school experience. They get to take one year out of their secondary education to do something they love while supporting their academic learning with a great student to teacher ratio. So good.
  • 1 1
 @rileygardner: I fail to understand how you can offer a list of 14 courses not counting spanish and your electives, including 3 different AP options, with 4 teachers where only one has something approaching a science background (MS in an engineering field). Even assuming one person each took ALL of the sciences and another ALL the maths, and a guess a third the literature, there is just absolutely no way a teacher can do a quality job educating the details of each of those subjects at even a high school level. It's physically impossible, let alone for people who have bachelors degrees in journalism and no teaching credentials.
  • 2 0
 @triggerdog: Hi! Thanks for checking out our website. I can see how that wording about courses is a bit confusing! It certainly would be impossible to offer 14 courses with just four teachers! Even with many more, it would still be difficult. We offer those 14 classes in general at our school, but not all at once. That list of courses is intended to be helpful for prospective families to help them understand the classes that can be taught in any given year, depending on what is needed by the student body attending that year. One of the most challenging aspects for a school like ours is taking students from all over the country, even the world, and then making a course schedule that works for them, their needs, and even their graduation requirements where they come from (many students come for one semester, one year and then finish at home). So we take their transcripts, review their academic background, what they need, and then start figuring out how to make it into a realistic schedule. Currently, at the MTB school, our course load includes English 11, English 12, History of the Americas, Government and Economics, Environmental Science, Computer Science, Spanish I-III, Media Productions (an fine arts elective), the college experience (a class to help apply for post-secondary institutions) AP Calculus, and Pre-calculus. Because we do not have a proper math teacher at the MTB school right now, our students are being taught AP Calculus and Pre-calculus by math teachers from the school's other academies (we have three others) via the computer. This is certainly not ideal, but it is working well enough so far and the students are planning on taking the AP Calculus (A-B) exam at the end of the year. As you can probably imagine, hiring teachers who can also coach mountain biking and be ready to travel all the time is difficult. We are currently interviewing candidates right now to fill this position and offer those classes in person next semester. I know that is definitely hard for people to believe that we do indeed teach "real" school, but we do. I'll let the parent comments on this thread speak on that behalf, but the only thing that I will add is that we have students score 5's on AP Calculus and AP Physics exams every year. That could not happen if we did not teach proper academics. Our school thrives on increasing students' motivations towards academics. If they do not do their homework, they do not ride that day. If their grade drops below a 70%, they do not ride either. Usually, the number one thing that surprises the students the most is how rigorous the academics are, as many do not expect that.
  • 5 1
 The quality of the teacher is not in the degrees or certificates they hold but in their passion for teaching, and for the kids.

My son is attending the school this year and these teachers / coaches / mentors are so passionate about what they are doing and it shows in the quality of instruction and connection they have with the kids. It also shows in the confidence and growth I have seen in my son in a very short period of time. This program is second to none for a kid that’s as passionate about mountain biking as mine is. I highly, highly recommend doing what you can to attend. It is an opportunity of a lifetime.
  • 4 0
 Well said
  • 7 0
 So, what did you do today at school son?
  • 5 0
 Now this would've gotten me to pay attention in school!
  • 2 0
 Shouldn't they be "off and biking" ?
  • 3 2
 Awesome for the privileged few who can afford it but I guess that's just mountain biking in general
  • 1 0
 Wow. What a way to do high school. I bet its expensive. Anyone know the tuition cost?
  • 1 3
 Looking for a fully accredited US school with highly competitive gravity and endurance cycling programs? Check out Killington Mountain School. Located less than 1 mile from one of the largest bike parks in the eastern United States, KMS has a 47 year history of providing a personalized experience for world-class athletes pursuing excellence in academics and their sport, without compromise. Our expert coaches, training specialists and teachers create a home for student-athletes nestled in the mountains of Vermont and deliver programming with a global reach. KMS serves student-athletes in grades 6-12 and those requiring post-graduate opportunities.

Instagram: @killingtonmountainschool
  • 2 0
 The Team

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